4 Truths About Influence

by Ken Mueller on February 17, 2012 · 23 comments

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The topic of influence is one that is discussed quite often in marketing and social media circles. The idea is that if you can find the right people to talk about your product, and they can influence others to try it, you’re golden. And because influence is so important, there are those who try to quantify it in some sort of amalgam of numbers and metrics, i.e. Klout.

Recently, my friend Jayme Soulati wrote a post about how those of us who are bloggers have a measure of influence. After I retweeted her post, another friend, Lindsay Bell, responded:

influencer tweet1 4 Truths About Influence

 

 

 

To which my response was:

 

influencer tweet2 4 Truths About Influence

 

 

 

And I truly do believe that. All of us are influencers in some way, shape, or form. And despite the fact that no two of us agree on a a definition for the term, we as marketers and business owners still want to tap into and harness the power that certain individuals seem to have over others. But regardless of how we define it, there are 4 truths that we need to examine before we seek to identify people as being influencers:

1) We are all influential about something – It’s true. Everyone is an influencer. One person might be influential about music, while another might be influential about tech products. We can be influential about multiple things at the same time, and at various levels.

2) Influence can be positive or negative – When we talk about influence, we focus on the positive, but there is such a thing as negative influence. There are times when an individual might talk about a certain product, but if I’m not fond of the individual, or I don’t trust their opinion in a specific area, it might color the way I feel about the product. A company might hire someone to endorse a product, but the association with that spokesperson might make me think less of the product.

3) Influence fluctuates vertically – If we draw influence for a particular individual on a graph, it ebbs and flows. At some points we might wield a great deal of influence, while at other times we may have very little influence. And those fluctuations can happen rather rapidly.

4) Influence fluctuates horizontally -Additionally, influence from one individual varies among influencees. Someone might wield a great deal of influence over me, and yet have no influence over you and your behavior. And when you take the first 3 points into account, this too can change rather rapidly.

So if we were to take all of these together and create a physical model of influence it would be some sort of ever-moving, multi-faceted amorphous blob which rotates on multiple axes, and which we all perceive differently.

This is why it’s so difficult to even attempt to quantify it.

Does this mean we shouldn’t seek  to identify those who are influencers in relation to our businesses and products? Not at all. But we must take all four of these truths into consideration as we try to harness the power of influence. Identifying influencers, like most online activities, is a continuous process, not a once and done exercise.

How do you view influence? How do you identify your brand influencers?

 

 

 4 Truths About Influence
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23 comments
JustInTheSouth
JustInTheSouth

@SEOcopy Thank you for the RT! Hope all is well with you.

JDeragon
JDeragon

If we end up following and worshiping the influencers then we give up our own influence. The whole issue of influence sounds a lot like traditional media.

belllindsay
belllindsay

Well, holy cow! Now I'm *really* an influencer!! LOL Of course, my tongue was firmly planted in cheek when I tweeted that, because I already *know* I'm an influencer - I'm a mom!! Seriously though, I loved Ken's comment back to me that day, and he is 100% correct. We are all influencers in some way. We all have our "things" that we are better at, and things that we aren't so great at. I know I do (hellooo, analytics!!) - and I've said before that you can't expect a person to KNOW (hence, be influential about) EVERYTHING. Companies especially need to remember this. Anyhow, great post Ken, and thanks for making my Saturday! :)

@Quartz164
@Quartz164

You definitely have it right Ken, we're all influencers. There are so many variables to consider it's mind-boggling. Working with ListenLogic and its research analysts has kept me up at night thinking about influence, business intelligence and how social media is changing innovation for businesses, products and research. It's really an exciting time when you think about the possibilities SM provides. The collective influence is shaping our future on so many levels.

Hajra
Hajra

I would agree with you when you say everyone is an influencer. Some might not realize it but yes, we do have an influence and that can be either good or bad. Every step of our life is filled with influence. Parents influencing their kids, peers influencing kids, our ideas, thoughts and processes influenced by the dynamics with which we are surrounded. Every moment has some amount of the power of influence in it; we just don't realize how strong it actually is.

But what needs to be kept in mind is when influence becomes forcing one's thoughts onto others; that line must be marked.

kmcphee
kmcphee

I completely agree with the idea that everyone is an influencer. It's also important to remember that it is likely they are influential in a topic because they are genuine and not tryg to force products or ideas on people. Passion and expertise in an area go a long way.

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR

I think you've got something here...using these four categories of measurement, if you will, can you assign some sort of numerical system to ascertain strength of influence? How about trying that, Ken? Or, set up a tweet up over at G+ -- what the heck is that called when you camera together? Hah. (You and Shonali and I did it one morning!)

Influence is a touchy deal; very abstract in all seriousness. So easy to assign number of XYZ (followers, subscribers, etc.) and be done, but it's also passion, message, ability to opine and sway that. I love this topic, though. While I know I didn't influence Komen directly, my piece was part of the larger pie that did. Thanks for the link love!

Latest blog post: We Cannot Define PR

BetsyKCross
BetsyKCross

I believe if you can stay true to who you are you will influence those in your path for the best, and you'll attract those whose influence you need. I have a very small following and a specific niche. But I still write about what interests me, not what I think people want or need to hear (well sometimes I do). And I'm seeing that I attract people I never tought would be interested in what I do. Fun!

Thanks Ken!

Latest blog post: Thanks For Your Patience!

ShellyKramer
ShellyKramer

I love this concept, Ken. And I think it's very true. In fact, I know it is. We've done a lot of studies on and with mom bloggers and while brands often mistakenly think the best blogger with which to work is one who has a lot of twitter followers or a bunch of Facebook friends, our research has often found that often it's the bloggers with small, engaged and passionate communities who wield the most influence. And they, equally as often, are the ones who are overlooked because they are not deemed "influential." But when we work with brands and are charged with amassing influencers for a certain campaign, these are the very things we look at.

Great thoughts here!

Shelly

taylorjhall
taylorjhall

@kmueller62 no problem, you influenced me. :)

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@belllindsay I'm glad I made your Saturday! I mean, that's why I'm here. I exist solely to make you happy! Which...makes me an influencer! Wanna buy something?

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@@Quartz164 It really is a rather heady topic, and I would bet that topics like this will be the doctoral dissertations of choice in the near future as we try to sort out exactly what it all means. And of course any time you want to write a guest post on any of those topics, well...I'm ready!

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@Hajra Exactly. The way we act as marketers has to be tempered quite a bit, so as not to destroy the way we act as individuals and consumers. It's a really fine line we have to walk. I find that in my life some of the strongest influences are the most subtle.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@BetsyKCross Thanks for your thoughts, Betsy. And I've had the same experience in many ways. I'm sometimes surprised at who exerts some form of influence over whom.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@ShellyKramer Thanks, Shelly. We try so hard to find the magic bullet in influence, and it's just not there. We need to change the way we look for these sorts of things, understanding that what works today, might just flop tomorrow.

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